The Before I Die project is a memento mori for the modern age, a public ritual that invites us to restore perspective in distracting times and consider the things which connect us.

Renwick Gallery, Washington DC

Drawing upon Michel de Montaigne’s proposition that “to philosophize is to learn to die,” the Before I Die project reimagines the ways the walls of our cities can help us grapple with death and meaning as a community today. Thanks to the thousands of people who have created walls in their communities, Before I Die has become a global participatory public art project that reimagines our relationship with death and with one another. The original wall was created on an abandoned house in New Orleans by artist Candy Chang after the death of someone she loved. Since then, over five thousand Before I Die walls have been created in seventy-eight countries around the world. Each wall is created by local residents who want to make a space in their community to restore perspective and share more with one another. Each wall is a tribute to living an examined life.

Frequent Questions

Can Candy Chang speak at my conference or event?

Candy has enjoyed speaking at many universities, conferences, and organizations about community, creativity, and emotional health. These talks directly support her public art works. If you’re interested, please contact the Lavin Agency.

Can I build my own Before I Die wall?

Absolutely! This concept is free for anyone to use so long as it’s not for commercial or promotional use. Find out how to get started here.

Can I make my own version of this concept?

Of course. We’re always happy to see non-commercial variations of the Before I Die project. We’ve seen walls that focus on everything from running to aging to graduating to loving your city. If it’s helpful, you’re welcome to use our step-by-step guide and templates, and we hope you might mention your project was inspired by Before I Die.

Is there a digital version of the Before I Die project? Can I make my own app or website?

We’ve experimented with creating a digital Before I Die wall and we’ve learned a few things along the way. First, that scrolling through digital text isn’t nearly as satisfying as seeing the personalities and quirks of individual handwriting. Second, a digital wall quickly becomes a joyless exercise in policing horrible comments from robots, Nazis, trolls, and perverts. It’s not worth it.

How can I support the Before I Die project?

We rely upon donations from companies and organizations to keep this station up and running, and this allows us to continue developing resources, content, and materials for our projects.

I like this project. Any others?

You can find other participatory art projects at Ritual Fields.

How can I find out if a Before I Die wall is currently in a particular city?

With dozens of new walls appearing and disappearing each month, it’s been difficult to keep track of the status of each wall. If you know the organization or individual who created the wall you’re searching for, it might be helpful to get in touch with them directly.

Candy Chang is an artist, TED Fellow, and public speaker. She is represented by The Lavin Agency.

“Before I Die is merely one of the most creative community projects ever.”

The Atlantic